HRH Prince Daniel's ”The honorary doctors' speech” at the graduation ceremony, Karolinska Institutet
Stockholm City Hall
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Your Royal Highness,
Fellow Honorary Doctors,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen, what an honour to be here this evening, together with such brilliant and inspiring people!
I am especially honoured to attend this ceremony together with my two fellow honorary doctors: Doctor Swaminathan and Professor Takeda, who have both made such outstanding contributions in fostering international partnerships and collaboration in their respective fields.
I believe I speak for the three of us honorary doctors when I say that today’s ceremony will be a lifetime memory!
But now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to leave this beautiful Golden Hall for a moment, and come with me to a maternity ward here in Stockholm.
This evening, two babies are born there. Sophie and David.
Their parents love them very much and hold great hopes for their children.
However – while they are born in the same place, very soon, their lives will develop in completely different directions.
Sophie’s parents are both well-educated with high incomes. They are health-conscious, eat well and exercise regularly. Sophie will grow up in a safe area, with easy access to nature and sports. She will join her parents on outdoors activities and ride her bike to school, which of course is one with a health profile. At seven, she goes to two different sports activities per week. She skis in the winter and goes to soccer camp in the summer.
David will grow up in another area in Stockholm, only a few miles from Sophie’s home, but under different circumstances. His single mother works full-time and struggles to make ends meet. Paying thousands of crowns per year for material and fees for sports activities is not an option. Most of his free time, David sits at home in front of different screens. His mother feels bad that her son does not get the exercise she knows he needs. However, when he is home, at least she knows he is safe.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think you can see where this story is going: The lives of these two children will continue to develop in two very different directions.
At the age of 90, Sophie will pass away peacefully after a long and healthy life.
David, on the other hand, will be diagnosed with diabetes type 2 at 50, and die from cardiovascular disease at 74.
Six years is the difference in life expectancy between the highly educated and the less educated in Sweden today. Depending on where you grow up, the differences are even greater – like for Sophie and David.
Six years is more than 2000 days. And I find it unacceptable that some lives should hold so many fewer days than others.
This is the reason I chose to engage with children’s and young people’s health.
And this is also why I am standing here now.
Being appointed honorary doctor at the renowned Karolinska Institutet is a great honour. But above all, I see it as a recognition of all the people who are seldom recognized, but who devote their time and energy to helping children and young people establish healthy habits early in life.
Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot even begin to imagine how many lives will have been saved by Doctor Swaminathan’s work to bring covid vaccine to low and middle-income countries.
Or, by Professor Takeda’s efforts in developing and implementing ECMO therapy.
And I am convinced, that if we can give every child a fair chance to live a healthy life, regardless of social or economic background, if we can prevent lifestyle-related disease, even more lives can and will be saved.
This is something we have to do – and we have to do it using evidence-based methods. In this effort, the research conducted here at Karolinska Institutet plays a crucial role.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to the students, the researchers, the staff and the management of Karolinska Institutet.
And, as a spoke person for us, this year’s honorary doctors, it is my privilege to propose a toast: to science, to knowledge and to the medical university Karolinska Institutet.